I can’t move. Those two little words have frozen me to the ground. Did she really just say that? I can’t be sure, I can’t think straight. Despite everything I was now able to do, I didn’t see this coming at all.
I’ve let the silence become uncomfortably long. I know she’s waiting for me to respond, but I can’t find the words. Even if I did, I’m not sure I could voice them.
“But-,” is all I eventually mumble, but she’s already prepared to counter.
“Don’t do that, John. Please. You must have known this was coming?” she says.
I think I’m still in shock. I mean, we’re on the sidewalk, just had dinner, and now this. Words usually come quite easily for me, but not tonight. She’s caught me entirely off guard and I don’t know what to do, what to say.
“No,” is all I can manage. Brilliant.
“Please don’t. Last night was the final time, I swore it. I needed you and where were you? I needed my boyfriend with me and you weren’t there. Yet again.”
Her tone tells me she’s waiting for an explanation, the reason I couldn’t be with her. The thing that was so important I let her sit in the hospital alone. I guess it’s one thing to miss a date or two, but not this.
“It was work. I’m sorry, Kate. I would have been right there if I could,” I say, but it’s clear from the look in her eyes it’s not enough. They’re glazing over: she’s going to cry.
“That’s the thing, John,” she starts, tears streaming down her face now, her voice stuttering, “I rang your work..last night..several times…asked for you..and they said..they said..you weren’t there..that you quit months ago!”
I move in to hold her for what I’m beginning to realise will be the last time, but she moves away. Behind the tears are eyes of anger now, not sadness. She’s still waiting for an explanation. A reason for all the missed dates, the late nights, the early mornings, my whereabouts last night. Something to explain all of it, something that will suddenly make sense of it all so she can forgive me and we can stay together. I know this is what she wants, and I want nothing more than to give it to her. But I can’t.
“I’m so sorry, baby,” is all I say. It’s not nearly enough.
“Then so am I.”
As she goes to turn away, I reach forward and grab her arm. She turns around and our eyes meet again. She pulls me close, leans toward my ear.
“Don’t do this. It’s really over. If you can’t trust me, be there for me, then I can’t trust you. And without that, we’ve got nothing,” she whispers.
It’s strange, but I swear she knows more than I think. I sure this can’t be true, I’ve been so careful, but the way she speaks sends a shiver right through me. Is she saying my secret would be safe with her? Does she know? This and a thousand other questions run through my head as she turns and walks away. It’s all happening so fast, I can’t make sense of it. The love of my life, the woman I was just eating dinner with, walking away to start a life on her own. Without me.
As the outline of her body fades, calm begins to creep back over me. More composed, I realise all of the things I could have said to make her stay. All of the good things I have done since that day six months ago. All of the people I have helped, and the bad ones I’ve stopped. They’re called superheroes in the comics and on the TV, but there’s nothing super about what I’ve done. It’s just life, and doing things other people aren’t able to. There’s no use in me having these abilities if I’m not going to use them. I could have told Kate this, she may have understood. She may have even loved me for it. But to tell her one side of things would open the door to the other. Of the people who want me dead, and the ones who would use anybody and everybody I love to make this happen. She doesn’t know it, but it’s all for her. Maybe one day she will. Maybe one day I’ll be able to tell her.
I feel an odd sensation coming over me as I skip around into the alley, something I feared had been lost to me forever. A single tear rolls down my check. Its warmth is oddly unfamiliar, yet comforting. I enjoy it a moment as I allow myself a brief thought of what might have been. Of a life lost, of a different future. But I’m shook from these thoughts by the sound of a woman’s scream. I judge it to be no more than ten miles away.
And so I catch the last remnants of the tear in my fingertips, allowing its warmth to moisten my hands, protect them against the winter’s cold. Then I fasten the button on my coat, rise myself from the ground, and soar up into the dark of the night.